Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Self-care is a sort of tricky subject for me. I have written before about my thoughts on the term 'self-care' and how it many times feels like a chore. There are a lot of aspects of self-care that I think are more accurately labeled Self-Joy because they are really about more than JUST taking care of basic needs. For me, the difference between self-care and self-joy is in degree.
The mental image I love is that of filling up a cup. If you think of the cup as a container for your energy, you want to fill your cup to overflowing. This way, you can give from the overflow, without depleting yourself. Self-Joy is what fills your cup, but self-care is what keeps the cup from being broken.
When we neglect self-joy, we may find ourselves 'running on empty'. We may be tired or worn out, but many times we can just keep trucking along. We may be going through the motions or not able to really shine, but we can keep putting one foot in front of the other, we can manage our days and our tasks, and we can make it through.
When we neglect our self-care, we have not only let our cup empty, but we have ignored the signs and let cracks form. Even if we start pouring energy into our cup, we now have to work harder and put more in because we have these slow leaks that let the energy seep out. Worse, if we continue to ignore the cracks, they can get worse, and eventually our cup can shatter.
For me, this is what self-care is about. And in many ways it is a chore. Self-care is all the things that we know we need to do to take care of our selves. It is the things that may not be fun but are absolutely necessary.
As adults, we have the ability to choose to honor our self-care and be responsible and take care of our selves, or to do things we know aren't good for us (but may be more fun). It is often literally up to us to make the hard choices, to set boundaries, and to do the things that are good for us in the long run.
In some ways I am good at self-care. I am pretty aware of my self and my body and what I need. I have a high sleep requirement, and I know this. If I push myself and don't get my eight hours a night, everything in my life suffers for it. I can sometimes manage a few days, but if I am constantly pushing that edge, then I will be miserable, I won't get things done and I will be grumpy (therefor making the people I care about in my life miserable too).
I also know that my body likes movement. While many of the things I enjoy doing (playing games on the computer, watching shows/movies, reading books) are pretty sedentary, when I go for too long without doing some kind of physical exercise (even fun stuff like dancing!), my body will start to ache and I will just hurt.
And I know that my digestion doesn't tolerate tons of rich foods, lots of meat or too much sweet/salty stuff. I suffer if I eat too much dairy. I feel miserable if I overeat and am too full (or if I wait too long to eat....I am a grazer). If I eat too much sweet stuff or too much salty stuff, the tastebuds in my tongue get over sensitized, and one will get all swollen and make eating anything that isn't very bland sort of painful.
But even with all of these reminders when I am not taking care of myself, it is easy to slip up, to not be mindful of my self-care. And once those cracks start forming in our cup, we really have to work harder to keep them mended so they can heal.
When my grandmother was in the hospital once, they told her that for every day she had been bedridden it would take her two days of physical therapy to build up her strength just to get back to where she had been before she was hospitalized. And this seems to be fairly true in other situations. It takes more effort to fix things that have been broken than it does to maintain them.
I have a lot of stubbornness, which works both for me and against me. A friend recently told me that I was someone who kept commitments. If I said I was going to do something, then it was going to happen, no matter what got in my way. This is absolutely my stubbornness coming into play. And it is something I am very proud of. I like that I am dependable, and that if I give my word that I will do something, then it will get done if it is at all in my power to do so.
However, because I know that, and I know how hard I can push when I have to, I also have the tendency to procrastinate and then feel pressured to get things done to make my own deadlines. In addition to these blog posts, I write a monthly story for my Patreon page, and I have had to write furiously several months because I kept putting off writing until the last week when I absolutely had to get things done to finish in time.
I try really hard to manage my self-care, but too often I find that I am doing the bare minimum. I know what I need and I do what is necessary to meet those needs, but I don't often go beyond it. Even knowing that doing a bit more would make me feel even better, would tip over into self-joy and would help me fill my cup, I still find that I struggle to go that extra yard.
I am starting to realize, though, that what I am doing is like treading water. I may be staying afloat, but I'm not going anywhere. I don't think that it is enough to not be drowning. I have dreams that I want to follow and bigger goals that I want to work on. And if all my energy is devoted to this cycle of avoidance and then trying to catch up, I am never going to move forward.
I was reading a novel last night, that talked about this very idea. The character was plagued by physical needs, that would literally hijack her body if she didn't take care of them. But as she grew, she got more control. She thought it would mean that she would eventually not have those needs anymore, but what it actually meant was that she wouldn't get the smack upside the head to take care of herself...it would all be on her.
And I think that is something that I don't always take ownership of in the way I should. It is my life, and my body, and my time and my energy. Each choice I make, throughout my day, leads me to where I am at the end of the day. If I choose to goof off, then I am setting myself up for having to work twice as hard to catch up later. If I don't do the things I really want or need to do, they don't get done, and I may miss out.
Sometimes we don't have a choice in life. Sometimes life smacks us and our cup gets cracked, and we have to do the best we can to adjust. But we also need to stop dropping our cup because we just weren't paying attention. We need to check in with our selves, and keep an eye on our cup! Every day, we have a new opportunity to make sure our cup is whole and being filled. If there are cracks, we can tend to them, so they can heal. But we have to open our eyes, and really look, or we won't have any clue what we need to do to fill ourselves up.